Saturday, April 08, 2006

An anniversary, and a remembrance

A disclaimer - this is not a fun or comfortable posting. If you're offended by hearing (even indirectly) about men having sex, this posting is not for you. Those few parts are not particularly graphic, but they are fairly central to the story.

If you're still with me, read on...

From the time that I moved to Ohio in 1973, Skip was my best friend. We were two semi-outcasts - he because of his lack of height, me because of my weight and my transfer-student status. Yet somehow we found each other, and we found our niche in high school together first in theatre, then in marching band and choir. We were what Dan Fogleberg would later call "twin sons of different mothers."

Skip and I double-dated a lot - he was always much more successful with women than I ever was - and we became best drinking buddies as well. After high-school, I started off to school (on what turned out to be an eight-year bachelor's degree) and he went off on an abortive career as a vacuum-sweeper salesman and various other kinds of scams. He married his high-school sweetheart in 1977, while I tried and failed a number of times to have successful relationships with females.

In late 1982, after an evening of highly-successful drinking, we ended up together at the home of friend where I was "house-sitting." Our inhibitions were already down, and we ended up in the same king-sized bed in the one heated bedroom in the house. One thing led to another, and we ended up exchanging oral sex. Neither of us were black-out drinkers - so the next morning, we both knew what had happened, but we tiptoed around the subject as if a rhinoceros was in the bedroom with us. We had breakfast, and he went back to his soon-to-be-ex-wife in Columbus.

Over the next year, we had maybe half-a-dozen more oral encounters, all under the influence of alcohol. Either one of us would initiate sex, so it was not one-sided in any way. And we both clearly enjoyed it - although it seemed that Skip was increasingly more uncomfortable about it when we were sober. When I met my soon-to-be wife, I'm pretty sure that our playtimes stopped (there might have been one more encounter before I got married, but I honestly can't remember for sure).

After all, I was intent on being a faithful husband - because that's what I believed "normal" men were supposed to do. I can't say that I stopped fantasizing about sex with Skip, and there were times when I wished we had just had the guts to speak the truth about how we felt about each other. Then, in my fantasy, we'd ditch our respective relationships, take things "all the way" to intercourse (which Skip had hinted at wanting to do) and just choose to be together with each other. By that time, he was divorced - but I was still married (and a coward), and that was that.

Flash forward six years. Both our lives were in the throes of end-stage alcoholism, though neither of us really believed that. Skip, I later found out, was also involved with cocaine and new age "spirit channeling," which was taking him down darker and darker roads. Both of us were in desperate financial straits, spending way more than we were earning, and trying to look "normal" while doing it.

Two weeks before Easter 1990, Skip showed up at my house with a bottle of Drambuie (a long-standing birthday tradition for us) and a really heavy heart. As we sat on the front steps of my recently-acquired house in West Toledo, he poured out his troubles - how his finances were falling apart, how he was having trouble performing at work, how his new girlfriend (another childhood sweetheart) was souring on him, and how his parents and grand-parents had completely rejected him (the girlfriend was black, and Skip's family was pure redneck).

Unfortunately, I had no experience, strength or hope to share with him. I told him, "Skip, I've got no answers for you. I'm probably about 8 months away from bankruptcy myself; my marriage is completely on the rocks; I've got a four-inch hole in my leg from a lesion that was at least partly caused by my drinking; and my family really doesn't care whether I live or die, right now."

I was so wrapped up in my own struggles and shame that I couldn't hear his desperation, couldn't see his despair. We sat on the front steps, side-by-side, and commiserated a while longer. Out of the blue, Skip said, "Yeah, things are so bad between [the girlfriend] and I that nothin's happenin' between us. Hell, she won't even give me a blowjob any more." (Not surprisingly, my own sexual activity had fallen off in similar fashion.)

So I poured a little more Drambuie into his glass, smiled at him, and said (at least half-jokingly), "Well, at least THAT'S something I could help you out with..."

The rest I remember in slow-motion - Skip leaping up off the step, turning and facing me with this look of horrified shame, his expression and body-language almost shouting, "How the fuck could you possibly have said that out loud?"

He stared at me a moment longer, then set his glass down on the step in silence, turned and walked to his van, got in and drove away without another word. As I watched his van roll down the street, I remember distinctly two sentiments: one, that I was so terribly sorry he had been offended by what I had said; and two, that part of me really wished he had taken me up on my offer.

I had no idea that he had gone home that night, packed up a dozen things he had of value, and spent a week traveling around Ohio, handing his treasures over to friends and family members. I had no idea how mentioning our shared sexual history was the absolute final straw for Skip, coming hours after his grandfather (whom he adored) told him that so long as he had "that niggah girlfriend," he would never be welcomed in their house again.

But a week later, he drove back into Toledo very, very drunk. And shortly before dawn on April 8, 1990 - Palm Sunday - he knelt down next to a tree beside a jogging path at the Wildwood Metropark in Toledo, pressed a .38 caliber pistol to his chest, and pulled the trigger.

The bullet did not pierce his heart, as several of his suicide notes said he planned to do. It severed his aorta, and (according to the police report) he spent several minutes thrashing around on the ground, drowning in his own blood, alone.

He was 33.

I had been up all night chaperoning a youth-group overnighter in South Toledo. I hadn't even known Skip had left town, and as I remember it, the first hint of trouble I got was when his girlfriend called my house to ask if I knew where Skip was. About an hour later, she called back, and asked me if I could drive her downtown. It seemed a jogger had discovered Skip, and they needed her to come down and identify the body. All the way downtown, we both hoped and prayed it was a case of mistaken identity.

It was no mistake.

It was even more devastating when I found out that his girlfriend, several of his friends, his ex-wife and each of his family members had received suicide letters, postmarked the day before he died. Because of everyone he knew closely, the only person who didn't get a letter was me.

I remember thinking at the time, "Well, evidently Skip believed I had all the information I would need about why he killed himself."

It took me several years before I could forgive him for that. But in fact, when my own life self-destructed in December 1990, the only reason I couldn't kill myself was because I knew that while it would take me out of any hope of a solution, it wouldn't clear up any of my problems. That simple knowledge, as painful as it was, was also a saving grace for me.

The first time I could find even a smidgeon of peace about Skip's death was at two years sober, being asked to be an AA sponsor by a 19-year-young man - and having him admit to me how often he felt shame over his own "close encounters with the same sex." And as he sat there, dejected, waiting for my judgement on him, I could share with him what happened as a result of my own same-sex encounters - and what they cost me. And out of our shared pain and shame came healing. A few months later, a fellow still in high-school and newly sober did the same thing - and a little more of the pain and shame went away.

It took several more years to admit how angry I had been at Skip for cutting off the chance for us to live together in sobriety. And it has only been in the last two years that I have been willing to admit how much I wished I'd had the chance to be honest with him about how I felt about him, emotionally and physically.

A little over a week ago was my first out "belly-button birthday." I've had the opportunity to tell this story several times in the last six months, and each time I've told it, I've found new strength and new healing.

So on this anniverary date, it seems appropriate to put this story out - if for no other reason than to tell anyone else who might have similar shame or pain about their sexuality this important truth:

No matter how far your life may seem to have disintegrated, no matter how many friends and family have rejected you because of your homosexuality, believe this: your life, your love and your story are valuable - both to God, to those who love you, and to others who need to hear your story.

The God of my misunderstanding was waiting for me with arms open wide, when I finally was willing to admit the truth about myself. And I trust that the same God will be there for you, as well.
If even one person hears that message, and chooses to go on living as a result, the pain of sharing this story will have been worth it.

So, all these years later, I need to say these things:

I love you, Skip....still. And I miss you, still. A lot of the hurt, and the anger, is gone - and I have to admit that there are sometimes multiple weeks that can go by without a thought of you. But I still wish you were here.

I'd loved you far more that a brother - even back then.

And I really,
really wish I'd had the balls to get honest with myself and with you, and tell you that out loud, before you died.

I wish you could have held on long enough to find out that there was hope, and sobriety, and healing, for the two of us - regardles whether we were together or apart. You'll never believe all the times that I'll hear a song, or have some experience and say, "Damn, I wish you were here for this..."

I still believe those hopes are valid and true for me, today. And I trust that there will be another man - or men - with whom I can share my heart and my body the way I wish I could have with you.

It's no longer about passing a test...

I saw the test (below) on several fellow coming-out-bloggers' sites, and thought it would be fun to take it.

Of course, I also took one of these online tests to see which Dr. Seuss character I was, too. I'm not sure that scale necessarily defined my character or personhood, either.

I'd not heard of the Klein scale before, so Tom's explanatory notes were helpful. Of course, he also said that "Simple-minded categories are for rabbits, in my opinion."
(He says a lot of things "are for rabbits," for that matter. In fact, he's always talking abou rabbits. I'll have to get him to explain the reference on that one. Are rabbits for gay men like gerbils, only bigger?... Inquiring minds want to know.)

I do agree that "fitting in" is (for me, at least) becoming less of a driving force - and I don't need some online test to tell me I'm gay. I know that for a fact. And taking the test was not an indication that I was seeking proof or acceptance by "scoring well" on someone's theoretical scale of fagitude. Thank God, I am well past that.

::::comic-strip sound-bite: "I yam what I yam, an' tha's all that I yam." ::::

Not a surprising score...

Well, this wasn't much of a surprise:

Klein Sexual Orientation Grid

I scored an average of 4.14

01 2 3 4 5 6


This result can also be related to the Kinsey Scale:

0 = exclusively heterosexual
1 = predominantly heterosexual, incidentally homosexual
2 = predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
3 = equally heterosexual and homosexual
4 = predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
5 = predominantly homosexual, incidentally heterosexual
6 = exclusively homosexual


The idea of this excercise is to understand exactly how dynamic a person's sexual orientation can be, as well as how fluid it can be over a person's lifespan. While a person's number of actual homo/heterosexual encounters may be easy to categorize, their actual orientation may be completely different. Simple labels like "homosexual", "heterosexual", and "bisexual" need not be the only three options available to us.

Take the quiz
Given the fact that I was married for more than six years, and deeply closeted for 30 years, it would be kinda tough (especially given the weight given in this test for the past) to score much higher, I'd guess.

I definitely feel more of a 5, though. After all, there are some disqualifying conditions which would forever prevent me from pinning the Gayometer (being fashion- and decor-impaired, and not being young, attractive, height-weight proportionate, or well-endowed enough). But there are some definitely OGT's _(obviously gay traits) [hat-tip to The Broken Hearts Club for the term]:

- Having videos from both Bel Ami and Falcon studios
- Knowing why they call Lukas Ridgeston "Lucky Lukas"
- Having a significant aversion to all team sports
- Owning more than 1 Barbara Streisand or Carpenters album

And, of course, being really turned on by attractive men....

Monday, April 03, 2006

A public response to an anonymous comment

Isn't it nice when a person's comments on a post exactly prove the point you'd been trying to make?...

A person who identifies themselves only as "NCS" said that they "noticed a lot of things I wanted to respond to."

Well, there are a few things I'd like to respond to, as well...the commenter's words will be in italics, from now on...

One thing that sticks out like a sore thumb is that you basically do not believe the Bible at all. You are putting what YOU think and feel and what your body feels above the Word of God.
One thing that sticks out repeatedly in your commenting is the amazingly arrogant assumption that you know what I believe.

Did you happen to catch the item - in my very first post - that said that I'd been completely celibate (no sex whatsoever) since 1994?? Do you think I could have done that without the help of God? What sorts of thoughts and prayers do you suppose I was "feeding myself" in order to set myself apart from any kind of intimate contact? I sure wasn't getting that out of Out magazine...

I had several friends that were Christians, went into homosexuality then LEFT it, got married but even they will tell you they sought the Lord for deliverance for this reason: because they knew it was SPIRITUALLY wrong and they WANTED TO PLEASE THE LORD. Anything you feed will GROW.

It's interesting...I've had the similar experience, in reverse, it seems...

I have several friends who still think they are Christians, but are in fact sodomites. Oh, they are married, and blissfully heterosexual in all their physical activities. But they were sodomites, nonetheless - not according to what most folks think about Sodom in tradition, but according to the word of God. They, too, knew that their behavior was "SPIRITUALLY wrong" - but they just didn't care about "pleasing the Lord." Still don't, for that matter.

Because, you see, they come to church in their Lexuses and Infinitis and Land Rovers, wearing Rolex watches and $1,000 suits, and they mouth pious sewage about loving the Lord all the while. But they refuse to contribute a nickel to the food-pantry, the metro-area housing projects, or other efforts to care for the poor and downtrodden. And they certainly would never actually go down there to help.

And you see, my Bible is very clear about the sin of Sodom:
" 'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.'" (Ezekiel 16:49)

What do you suppose those Christians were feeding themselves?....

So much of what I read on your site says this: "I will place my own body,what I feel and my personal experience above the Word of God."

No - on this site I haven't done anything of the kind. How could I have remained celibate for a decade, if I were placing my body above the word of God?

What I have done is try to reconcile Scripture and my own experience. How can a God who "knew me before I was knitted in the womb" allow enough stitches to drop to make me this way? Because, you see, I had to be created this way. I never chose this - who in God's name would? And I never abandoned anything.

(Well, that's a lie. I abandoned my natural homosexual state long enough to be married for six years, waiting for God to fix me. But I sure never abandoned what you would call "natural desires," because I never had 'em to begin with.)

I am not trying to wound you! But God set down principles for us to live by. Basically, He says: 'do it My Way.'

You're absolutely right. God does say, "Do it my way." But I'm not sure you're seeing what God thinks "it" is...

Let's look to the Scripture, for instance, and see how we are supposed to be treating those who are outside of the community of faith (which seems to be where gay people end up):
The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:34)

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-20)

Sounds just like our current so-called "Christian" nation's approach to broken families and immigrants, doesn't it?

Well, we can skip all that, can't we? After all, none of that stuff actually applies anymore, right? It's Old Testament stuff...all that law stuff has been fulfilled in Christ. So let's look at the New Testament...

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:36-40)

You know, I've checked 4 different translations - and not one of them says "love your straight neighbor as yourself." Has the Christian church acted in a loving way toward their gay and lesbian neighbors? Hmmm...might have to uncheck that box...

And we won't even get into Matthew 25:31-46, which Jesus tells us is going to separate the sheep from the goats.

In short, there are supposedly 7 texts about homosexuality - about which there is a significant amount of debate on whether the true intent is "people with homosexual orientation," which was unknown in the Biblical world, or if it was "straight people forsaking normal passions" (Romans 1).

But there are LITERALLY HUNDREDS of verses in this sacred Scripture on which there is no question about the stated intent - and about which the straight Christian church has failed to act, consistently, for two thousand years.

All I'm going to suggest is that before you go pickin' at the splinter in my eye, you'd best attend to the log in your own. Somebody important had something to say about that, too...

How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.(Matthew 7:4-5)

Jesus said: 'if you love me, KEEP my commands')and so he can show forth His holiness and goodness in us.

Absolutely. And I think the gay and lesbian community would be delighted if so-called Christians would just stop being so damn selective about which commandments we're ALL gonna follow.

And many foster homes these days are VERY nice...not all are like the stuff you see in the media.

Really? Come to Chicago and show me. I was a youth advisor for years, and got to see first-hand what loving, caring Chrstians did to kids in those "nice" foster homes. Or talk to my friend Norma, the social worker and Methodist minister in Kansas City. Tell us about how nice foster homes are...

Also, the average length of gay partnerships is 5 years or LESS. And in 20 years I have yet to be in a 'happy' gay home. There is usually a lot of power struggles going on.

Well, I can't address the 5-year statistic - because there are very, very few legal "gay partnerships." No such thing as gay marriage, you know. But isn't it interesting that the states which have allowed gay partnerships have the lowest rates of divorce, and those who have explicitly forbidden gay partnerships so far have the highest rate of straight divorce, and the highest rates of child abuse, in the nation? "They'll know we are Christians by our love," eh?

If you have yet to be in a "happy" gay home in 20 years, all I can say is, you need to get out more. Since, by definition, the number of children in "gay homes" is virtually nil, it follows that all the physical and sexual abuse going on is in straight people's homes - nor are those kids in foster care ending up there because of the breakup of gay marriages.

I intend no condemnation here..but for years, you fed all those desires and they grew and now they are ruling you and coloring all your current experiences.

How can you possibly know what I have fed in my heart? How can you say that, not knowing the number of hours I have knelt in tearful prayer, begging God to "heal" me, make me straight, and fix me? How can you question my sincerity, not having known what Gethsemanes I have experienced? Can you really be that arrogant, to claim to know my heart and my experience from a few blog entries?

And as for being "changed" or "healed," I have come to believe that I am being "changed into His likeness" - being healed of the self-hate and self-loathing I have lived with for 30 years.

You obviously "understand" nothing - and your ability to judge me, and my beliefs, and my history, based on this particular rant is absolutely unbelievable.

How dare you even pretend to profess to know what I believe and what I don't! If I didn't believe the central promise of Christ, his death and resurrection for my sins (and yours), I would have taken my own life in despair a dozen times over by now. My hope is built on Christ alone - regardless of who I sleep with (or don't, in this case), who I vote for, or anything else. Check out 1st Cor. 15:3-8, if you need to see my own personal credo.

I could go on, but I suspect it won't even prompt you to read any of my own backstory - let alone believe any of it. So I'm just going to leave it be.

Your comments, however, have become the perfect proof-text for everything I'd written in my earlier post. I appreciate that more than you'll ever know.